There is a great tradition of comics without words, or silent comic books. Sometimes the entire series is done in this fashion, although sometimes it’s just a one-off, fun gimmick. Sergio Aragone’s has two collections of some of his best doodles titled Actions Speaks and Louder Than Words, but he’s not the only talent throwing the English language in the crapper.
To some, Frank Miller is the quintessential God of comic books, the brilliant mind behind the ultimate Batman story The Dark Knight Returns and the genius behind the sensational films/comics 300 and Sin City. My review of the man would be somewhat less enthusiastic.
Still, the guy did do some great work, such as the silent comic Sin City: Silent Night. In Silent Night, a Dark Horse one-shot from 1994, tough guy Marv wordlessly strides through some of the most gorgeous brush and ink work Miller has ever committed to paper on his way to rescue a kidnapped little girl during a snow storm. Beautifully evocative white splotches fall slowly on scenes of grizzly death and torture as Marv slices, punches, and kicks his way through hired thugs.
Silent Night (collected in Sin City: Booze, Broads, and Bullets) is Miller at his best and a fun little silent romp. As a silent comic it is typical in another regard: at the end of the comic the main character breaks the silence. Here Marv has a few words of comfort for his rescued friend. Silence, as a rule, is great…though rules, like plaster busts of Roman Emperors, are more fun when you break them!
And now you know why I’m banned from the Met for life. Sigh.
Another silent comic in a similar style was the last issue of one of my favorite comics The Goon. Goon #33 found our hero down on his luck and fist deep in suckers as he silently punched up toughs in his low-rent town because he cannot punch the demons in his heart.
Instead of complete silence, Goon #33 used a standard but enjoyable trick: That of removing all the dialog from word balloons and replacing them with recognizable pictograms. When someone is being a real jerk their dialog is a picture of a braying donkey. When an attractive dame is trying to get her meathooks into our stoic hero’s heart the dialog balloon contained a picture of honey being poured out of a jar.
And then there’s Gutsman.
GUTSMAN, (W/A) Erik Kriek, Top Shelf Comics
One of the best comics of all time, and no one has heard of it. Weird.
Dutch comics auteur Erik Krieg has transcended language by drawing a haunting comic about super-heroes, love, loss, betrayal, and the mind-warping weirdness of a comics creator having an affair with one of his characters. That Gutsman is a totally silent comic, again relying on word balloons filled with pictograms, never detracts from the emotion and fun.
If you like small press books about relationships you’ll like this book. If you like super heroes that never seem to get it together you’ll like this book. If you like the weird, the bizarre and the silly you will LOVE this book.
Finally, here’s a free million dollar idea for any publisher reading today: iPhone killer app “Angry Birds” featured in their own Silent Comic for all readers and all international markets. You’re Welcome!